My Experience With Florida International University Students: Part One
Our church, has been privileged to be invited twice by the FIU ( Florida International University) Wesley House to offer a homemade meal specifically for its international students.
All of us who went to college know the phenomena of eating a homemade meal after being subjected to years of cafeteria food.
Part of what Wesley does, and does well, is to give students opportunity to know each other and discuss matters about God informally over a hot meal.
I met neat kids from Nepal, India, China, the Caribbean and South America.
Quite honestly, I was a bit tentative when I went to FIU.
Since 2004 I have been heavily involved with the church. Doing mission trips to, and later moving to East Africa, our emphasis was on the church.
Since coming back to the USA to pastor, my focus has continued with the church.
In many ways I’ve lost contact with the unchurched world. I do believe that it’s been all in God’s timing.
The unchurched world of the 90’s is different to the unchurched world of the 2000’s.
The American 90’s were a time of prosperity. There was little “perceived” need for God. I say “ perceived’, because God is who people need the most.
America was relatively resistant to the gospel. People were busy making money and segregated along political and social fronts.
With the inception of social media the world has become one huge amalgamated melting pot of interactive ideas, opinions and statements.
The ghettoized lines between, liberals and conservatives, gays and straights, atheists, Christians and Muslims have in many ways been erased.
The extravagances of the 90’s are being replaced by belt-tightening of the 2000’s.
The self-sufficiency of the last decade is being exchanged by the realization that the guarantee of jobs after college, or a thriving capitalist economy is gone.
The integrity of the USA political system is at its lowest ebb. Leaders with godly convictions, and a backbone to support them are an endangered species. It appears that our political system is beyond hope or repair.
Activist judges abound, who issue verdicts along political lines and not with righteous integrity.
The churches’ prosperity teachers, which sadly turned off many, are now the exception.
In the 90’s the liberals spouted off while conservatives held their tongues. Now, no one holds back.
The unchurched are no longer going to church to hear another religious message or an appeal for more money.
The America of today, is much more assimilated along social lines. In many ways our nation is unknowinlgly coming back to God’s design for people.
I don’t see the hunger for God that I see in Africa. I do see a fresh hunger though, for authenticity, relationships, a need to be heard and accepted, and to be loved for what one is, and not for what one is not.
I see a world that is hungry for fathers and mothers.
I see a world that wants to interact along the line of being people rather than labels.
I see people who want to belong.
I see a world that is hungry to interact and discuss.
The new generations are shunning divisions and labels. They are also shunning church for the sake of going to another meeting.
People are looking for authenticity, reality and genuine relationships.
They are looking for true love. Love to me, is the ability to accept the other person while still being true to my convictions in word and deed.
The media tells me that Christianity is dying in the USA, but I believe that they are wrong.
That’s not been my experience at the two Wesley luncheons. Never did I meet disparagement or scorn when talking about God. Nor did I see walls come up with my remarks about God.
I think that the issue of political correctness has been grossly magnified by our socialist media, when it’s only relevant to a minority of folks. Our media knows how to take the issues affecting minorities and amplify them to the point that scares society who in turn adopts them as their prevailing position.
I think that most young people do not wish to be politically correct. They are looking to intelligent discussion and intelligent relationships as they carve out their own destinies.
For us who profess Christ, we must step out of our Christian ghettos and into a world that is seeking authenticity, belonging and honest relationships.
As a Christian, I do not compromise my beliefs, and I express them boldly, but in love. I don’t think that those around me want me to relinquish, politicize or sweeten them. People are attracted to those who are willing to pay the high price to stand by their convictions.
I went to these luncheons with a 90’s mindset to be pleasantly surprised.
The independence and arrogance of last decade has been replaced by the authenticity for honest relationships of this decade.
My daughter who still has doubts about Christianity works in a high end Chuck E Cheese in NYC. Sometimes they hold events for kids who have cancer or physical defects. She comments to me, “Daddy, why don’t I see the church doing this kind of stuff instead of just going to another meeting?” I can’t reply, because I know she’s right.
I say to the church in closing; reach out, step out, do the uncomfortable, be interactive, be real, and love unhypocritically those outside the church. People are people who want to know Christians as people before they know them as Christians. I believe that you will be pleasantly surprised.